Gender differences in church

Men's and women's experiences of being single, and their attitudes and views, are often different. However, the ages interact strongly with some differences, and shed light on the kinds of reason that might underlie the gender differences.

Men manage being single less well than women, in terms of:

  • happiness
  • acceptance of being single
  • management of their lives day to day
  • their faith.

Men find sex before marriage more acceptable than women. They look in different places to find potential partners and are more likely to be found in some different types of church.

Happiness and marriage

Through all ages, men agree they will be happier married than women, and think that happiness is more about being married.


Men agree they will be happier married than women


Men, much more than women, keep their lives on hold until married. They also think it is their own fault that they are single. Most women past 30 think it is not their own fault, but men continue to think so until 60.



Men feel it is their fault that they are single

Meeting a partner

Men and women look in broadly similar places to meet a potential partner, but men are more likely to use online dating sites and women their social networks.


Where men and women look to meet potential partners


Church attendance differences between men and women

Denominational differences

There are no denominational differences for the genders in church attendance.

Type of church attended

More men attend a traditional kind of church, while more women attend family-focused and lively churches. This is in all age groups and particularly apparent in the 60+ age group.

A difference in types of church attended by men and women



Traditional church attendance

Family focused church attendance

Lively church attendance



A higher percentage of men (27%) than women (20%) attend a traditional kind of church at every age. Many more men who are 60+ say that they do so (42%).

A higher percentage of women (38%) than men (30%) attend a family-focused kind of church at every age. Attendance declines for both genders as they get older, but men's attendance declines faster and there is a slight increase amongst the women when 60+.

A higher percentage of women (37%) than men (29%) attend a lively kind of church at every age. Attendance declines for both genders as they get older, but women's suddenly increases when 60+.

This means that in the 60+ age group, men and women are increasingly to be found in different kinds of church.


Differences on singleness between men and women

Singleness and sexuality

Over 1 in 4 (26%) men agree that sometimes people who discover they are single assume they are gay, compared to 16% of women.

However there are age differences in that younger men

Single people appear to be receiving the presumption that:

  • if you are a man <30, you should be in a heterosexual relationship and, if not, you might be gay
  • if you are woman >30, you haven't found someone so there might be a suspicion of not wanting to be married.

Attending social functions

Women (56%) say that they enjoy or don’t have problems going to social functions alone more than men (49%). The 30-60 year age groups for men report they have most problems attending social functions and enjoy it least (with a 10% difference to the women).

The implication is quite large. If we were to take the national UK reported average (Tear Fund 2007) of two women to every man among the congregation, apply that to single adults that attend church, and then assume that those who don't enjoy or have problems going to social functions don’t go, then for the 30-60 age group, the proportion becomes close to four women to every man.

Being with married couples and children

Single women (44%) say that they enjoy or don't have any problems in being among married couples and children, compared to single men (37%).

The age differences are striking. For men, there is a sharp decline at 60, whereas for women there is a decline at 45, continuing at 60. Although speculation, these may well be the age points at which the different genders accept they will not have children and find it harder being around them.


More women (43.7%) than men (37.1%) state that they enjoy or do not have any problems in being amongst married couples and children

The joys of being single

Women (50% say that, because single, they enjoy having the space and time to devote themselves to faith/prayer more than men (42%) at every age. After a very slight decline among the 30-45 year-old women, the 60+ age group enjoy it most. The men’s enjoyment declines at 30 and again at 60.

Read comments about what Christians enjoy about being single.


Family and friends

Single women are more sociable. At every age, more women (54%) than men (41%) say that, because single, they enjoy having the chance to spend more time with friends and family. Women’s enjoyment of socialising drops and then stabilises at age 45 (at 48%), whereas men report their enjoyment as continuing to drop, ending at 21% for the 60+ age group.

More women (53.5%) than men (40.9%) enjoy having the chance to spend more time with friends and family

Half of single women (50%) say that they socialise with close friends at least once per week, compared to 40% of men.

The < 30 age group is similar for both genders, then men's social life with friends drops rapidly and stays low. Women’s declines but then increases at 60+.


More women (49.9%) than men (39.2%) state that they socialise with close friends at least once a week

The comparison between reported activities and enjoyment is interesting. Both genders report meeting up with close friends each week but, when 60+, enjoy it less because single.

Singleness and faith

Single women (53%), compared to men (39%), agree or strongly agree that in some ways being single has made their faith stronger, and do so at every age group. Women increasingly agree with the statement through the age groups. There is a drop for 30-60 year-old men.

Single men (66%) agree or strongly agree that having a partner in their life would strengthen their faith much more than women (47%) at every age group. Generally agreement that having a partner would strengthen faith decreases over time for both genders.

Awareness of the gender imbalance

Single adults' concern over the gender imbalance differs. Notably, more men (20% or 1 in 5) state that they have never been aware of any imbalance, compared to women (8%). This unawareness decreases over time for both genders.

62% of women state they are concerned about the gender imbalance, because it lessens the chance of finding a husband. This concern is stable until 45 and then suddenly drops.

35% of men state that they are rather glad about the gender imbalance, as it improves their chance of finding a wife. This gradually declines over the age groups.

Dating frequency

Single men (51%) more than single women (38%) say that they have dated quite often or a few times in the last year. They report this as being true for every age group. There is a drop and decline for women when they reach 45, whereas no such drop is apparent among single men.

A hypothesis for this data is that some men are not dating (in line with the larger number of never-married men in UK society compared with never-married women) whereas others are dating sequentially.

Moreover, the data suggests either that older men date different women much more frequently than single women have dates, or that they are dating younger women or non-Christians.

Meeting potential partners

Although both genders (64% men and 65% women) when

Men are much keener on the use of online dating sites and social networks, with 60% (compared to 51% of women) reporting that it is one of the best ways to meet potential partners.

This is true for every age group. Both men and women among the 30-60 age group think it better than other age groups; however, in the 60+ group, men get keener on it, women less keen.

Combining these two statements about the best way to meet partners, there are diverging views about the best way to meet a potential partner, meaning that people are looking in different places.


Differences on sex between men and women

Sex only within marriage

A higher percentage of women (54%) than men (44%) agree that sex belongs only in marriage and that they are fine with that. This is true for every age group, although both decline. The percentage agreeing drops below half when men reach 30 and when women reach 45. The biggest drop for both sexes comes at 45.

A higher percentage of women (49%) than men (36%) agree that avoiding sex before marriage is of the utmost importance. This is again true for every age group. The patterns are slightly different in that there is a large drop when men reach 30 and the percentages stabilise at around 1 in 3, whereas the stabilisation for women happens at 45.

Living by the decision

More men (32%) than women (25%) think that all or most Christians practise what they believe about no sex before marriage. Both decline, but women more than men. In other words, women think that fewer Christians practise what they believe.

This is in line with the view that there are relatively fewer dating men than women, and that they are more prepared to think it OK to have sex before marriage.

Thus the men dating for long periods – or who are non-dating – practise and believe others practise no sex before marriage, but the women – who experience a relatively larger number of men through dating – report that the men don't practise what they believe.

Sexual thoughts and behaviour

More men (41%) than women (24%) say that they struggle with their thoughts and feelings about sex. This is true for every age group. Men's struggle only declines when reaching 45 and then is gradual, whereas women's struggle declines through all age groups.

More men (18%) than women (10%) say that they feel guilty about their sexual behaviour. True for every age group, both decline, either because they decide they will not consider what they do as guilt-making or because they are not doing anything that could cause guilt.

Church's teaching on sex

More women (42%) than men (32%) say that they think the church's teaching on sex has deterred someone they know from making or staying with their Christian commitment.

This is true for every age group. This declines and then stabilises for women when they reach 45 and declines for men until 60 and then increases.


Methodological note

We looked at gender differences and also at age within the gender differences, using the same four age groups. Of the respondents, 71% were female and 29% male. This is typical of both:

  • the proportion that people believe to be in the church
  • respondents to surveys generally.

The data describes the percentage of women and percentage of men in reporting and answering questions, so is statistically comparable.